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Areopagitica Paperback – November 28, 2000
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(in full Areopagitica: A Speech of Mr John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc'd Printing, to the Parliament of England) Pamphlet by John Milton, published in 1644 to protest an order issued by Parliament the previous year requiring government approval and licensing of all published books. Four earlier pamphlets by the author concerning divorce had met with official disfavor and suppressive measures. The title of the work derives from "Areopagus" ("Hill of Ares"), the name of the site from which the high court of Athens administered its jurisdiction and imposed a general censorship. In a prose style that draws heavily on Greek models, Milton argues that to mandate licensing is to follow the example of the detested Papacy. He defends the free circulation of ideas as essential to moral and intellectual development. Furthermore, he asserts, to attempt to preclude falsehood is to underestimate the power of truth. -- The Merriam-Webster Encylopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Publisher
Imaged from the collection of the Bridwell Library --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This 18-point type edition is just that. Straight 18-point text; no explanations, no annotations, no background. I wish I had seen a copy before I ordered it. I don't have the copy in front of me, but I don't even remeber any paragraphs. Just page after unremitting page of 18 point type. I took one quick look and put it on the shelf.
I already have a good copy of John Milton's classic work, but I needed a copy I could mark up, and call me old-fashioned, but I wanted a real book, not a printout from the Web.
Somehow that page after page of 18 point type was a real jolt to the eyes.
But all is not lost. I can use the book as a perfect example of the differences different sizes of type can make.
I am now the owner of writings by the new John Milton, a politically correct John Milton, a John Milton that rejects manhood for adulthood and rejects man for person. This new Milton embraces the humanist pronouns hu and hus and hum, non-sexist third person pronouns. He, his and him and she, her and hers are no more.
Milton's quotation of Euripides is likewise changed. Euripides now says' "And hu who can and will, deserves high praise". Euripides stands corrected.
Milton's use of archaic English has also been modernized. Milton has cast aside much of his seventeenth century English. This Bandanna Books version of John Milton is no longer John Milton, but an altered, censored revision.
Ironically, in the essay Areopagitica John Milton is arguing to the Parliament of England for freedom of the press, specifically for the liberty of unlicensed printing. Would John Milton have approved this modern, secular, nonsexist version of his essay?
Milton would have agreed that Bandanna Books had a right to publish, but I suspect that he would have argued that that Bandanna Books had a moral obligation to label the book cover to indicate that Milton's essay had been significantly altered to fit a peculiar nonsexist standard.
Bandanna Books in Santa Barbara, California offers other humanist works including Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Plato's Apology and Crito, and commentaries by Confucius. Unless you find comfort in hu, hus, and hum, I suggest that the traditional Whitman, Plato, and Confucius might be adequate and that you look elsewhere. Let the buyer beware!
The book is part of the Little Humanist Classics series, which attempts to introduce "the humanist pronouns HU, HUS, and HUM wherever the reference is to a third person generally, without reference to sex." This edition also substitutes "adulthood" for "manhood" and modernizes certain other archaisms in Milton's language.
I sympathize completely with an effort to make English non-sexist, but I see no need to re-issue the classics (Milton, Tolstoi, Plato, Whitman, etc.) in expurgated, politically correct versions.
As far as the modernization of vocabulary, this seems hardly necessary with Milton, whose English is not as far removed from us as Chaucer's. After all, Milton is a bit more modern than Shakespeare, whose works are intelligible to most literate adults.
For those who prefer to read the Areopagitica as Milton wrote it, I recommend the Everman edition of the Complete English Poems, edited by Gordon Campbell. This volume includes the essays "Of Education" and "Areopagitica."
Hopefully, the language will evolve to a non-sexist state--living languages are very good at changing. But I doubt if the humanist agenda and its invented pronouns will win out over the great, slow, glacial tide of usage that has given us modern English and will, no doubt, produce something better than HU, HUS, and HUM.
Anytime one looks at a work in another historical context, consideration of time and place must be given if the communicator's message is to make sense. This seventeenth century oration was delivered by John Milton to Parliament, with the central theme of the right of individuals to seek out the truth for themselves.